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Drug-resistant 'superbug' a health threat in Travis County

Researchers at Austin Public Health have identified Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriacease, or CRE, as an emerging public health threat in Travis County.

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — Researchers at Austin Public Health have investigated 37 cases of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriacease, or CRE, at Austin medical facilities in 2017, with 18 of the cases being Travis County residents.

APH now considers CRE an emerging local public health threat in Travis County.

CRE is considred to have high mortality rates, with some studies showing 40-50% mortality rates, according to APH. CRE is considered to be one of the top three urgent drug-resistant organisms in the world today.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated more than two million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms resulting in approximately 23,000 deaths each year.

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Those who have the highest risk include people in hospitals and nursing and people with long-term antibiotic use, compromised immune systems or invasive devices.

On its website, the CDC lists what hospitals are doing to prevent CRE. They list the following "infection-control precautions":

  • Washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for a patient
  • Carefully cleaning and disinfecting rooms and medical equipment
  • Wearing gloves and a gown before entering the room of a CRE patient
  • Keeping patients with CRE infections in a single room or sharing a room with someone else who has a CRE infection
  • Whenever possible, dedicating equipment and staff to CRE patients
  • Removing gloves and gown and washing hands before leaving the room of a CRE patient
  • Only prescribing antibiotics when necessary
  • Removing temporary medical devices as soon as possible
  • Sometimes, hospitals will test patients for these bacteria to identify them early to help prevent them from being passed on to other patients"

Dr. Phillip Huang with Austin Public Health said over prescribing antibiotics adds to the problem. 

"First, you know, antibiotics are not always the answer. And so, make sure to ask your doctor, 'Do I really need an antibiotic?' Don't go in always thinking you do need an antibiotic," Dr. Huang said.

He also said in the last few months, a CRE Task Force was created to form strategies on preventing the superbug.

"We now have significant numbers of these bacteria that are severely resistant to this big gun antibiotic, essentially. So, we're trying to get the word out to prevent further development of these drug resistant organisms," Dr. Huang said.

For more information on CRE, click here.

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